Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 5, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL East EWSL Report

Part 5 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. Team ages are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 190.33 (77 W)
Adjusted: 232.78 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.45 (88 W)
Subj. Adj.: 221.45 (87 W)
WS Age: 29.18
2011 W-L: 87-75

C27Brian McCann1920
1B21Freddie Freeman+011
2B31Dan Uggla2219
SS34Alex Gonzalez1210
3B39Chipper Jones1713
RF21Jason Heyward*1228
CF29Nate McLouth1212
LF27Martin Prado1717
C234David Ross65
INF33Eric Hinske76
OF28Matt Young+04
1231Brooks Conrad*47
1328Joe Mather11
SP135Tim Hudson1310
SP224Tommy Hanson#913
SP325Jair Jurrjens1011
SP438Derek Lowe119
SP524Brandon Beachy04
RP123Craig Kimbrel*25
RP226Johnny Venters*510
RP326Eric O'Flaherty44
RP434Scott Linebrink33
RP534George Sherrill64

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Martin Prado 2 Win Shares (dropping him from 17 to 15), which is a very conservative estimate of his reduced defensive value on moving to left field - I'd have docked him further but his ability to slide back into the middle infield remains valuable and could yet be called upon by the Braves. Also docked Freddie Freeman 1 Win Share, as his youth, limited minor league track record and slow start raise at least some questions about his value. But I didn't want to tinker too much here.

Although Beachy looks for now like he should comfortably exceed 4 WS, you can never count your chickens with rookie starting pitchers.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Hicks, JC Bosan, Jordan Schafer.

Pitchers - Peter Moylan, Kris Medlen, Rodrigo Lopez, Cristhian Martinez (I swear some of these guys' names are misspelled with malice aforethought), Cory Gearin, Jairo Asencio, Mike Minor.

Analysis: Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that the Braves rate ahead of the Phillies, especially when you consider that EWSL has the Phillies as a 101-win team before applying the age adjustments. I take it with a grain of salt, though; the margin isn't large, and it's not hard to see how, say, Brooks Conrad could contribute less this year or Jason Heyward could fail to take The Leap (even the great ones don't always move in straight lines), in addition to the issues noted with Prado and Freeman. But as discussed below, the ranking says more about the Phillies than it does about the Braves.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 264.17 (101 W)
Adjusted: 264.43 (101 W)
Age-Adj.: 215.86 (85 W)
WS Age: 32.48
2011 W-L: 85-77

C32Carlos Ruiz1512
1B31Ryan Howard2319
2B32Chase Utley2822
SS32Jimmy Rollins1714
3B35Placido Polanco1813
RF29Ben Francisco77
CF30Shane Victorino2220
LF39Raul Ibanez1914
C234Brian Schneider54
INF33Wilson Valdez54
OF35Ross Gload53
1232Pete Orr11
1327John Mayberry#11
SP134Roy Halladay2319
SP232Cliff Lee1814
SP333Roy Oswalt1510
SP427Cole Hamels1413
SP530Joe Blanton76
RP134Brad Lidge75
RP239Jose Contreras65
RP330Ryan Madson97
RP433Danys Baez21
RP527Antonio Bastardo#11

Subjective Adjustments: None. I might have had some issues regarding how to value Domonic Brown, but for now, since Brown has zero value based on his prior major league experience and isn't available to play right now, I'm just treating him like any other prospect not yet on the roster.

Also on Hand: Position players - Domonic Brown, Dane Sardinha, Josh Barfield, Brian Bocock.

Pitchers - JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Michael Stutts, Mike Zajuski, Vance Worley. Note that the gap with the Braves disappears if you replace Bastardo on the 23-man roster with Romero.

Analysis: It's not quite "The Devil and Joe Morgan" - Bill James' memorable essay on how the 1983 "Wheeze Kids" Phillies confronted an aging roster not by rebuilding but by bringing in even more, even older players to squeeze out one last championship - as this Phillies team's key players aren't as old as, say, the Hated Yankees' and the main import, Cliff Lee, is hardly decrepit at 32. But age is everywhere up and down this roster, and its grim companion - injuries - has already taken a toll on Chase Utley and Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, ill fortune has struck in other ways - besides the injury to young Brown, Roy Oswalt has left the team for an indeterminate amount of time to deal with an undisclosed personal issue (which could be anything, whether it's an issue with Oswalt or his family - we just can't know how serious it is or how long he'll be away).

I still see the Phillies as the team to beat in this division, assuming Oswalt's not out for long; their starting pitching is fearsome, and the offense, if no longer terrifying, remains deep. But aging teams have a way sometimes of falling short of their name-brand value.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 170.67 (70 W)
Adjusted: 198.16 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 195.68 (78 W)
WS Age: 27.47
2011 W-L: 78-84

C30John Buck1211
1B27Gaby Sanchez*918
2B29Omar Infante1313
SS27Hanley Ramirez2829
3B26Emilio Bonifacio56
RF21Mike Stanton*716
CF26Chris Coghlan1114
LF23Logan Morrison*511
C227Brett Hayes*12
INF32Greg Dobbs32
OF26Scott Cousins+14
1235Wes Helms64
1328Donnie Murphy22
SP127Josh Johnson1514
SP227Anibal Sanchez77
SP328Ricky Nolasco87
SP434Javier Vazquez108
SP524Chris Volstad66
RP127Leo Nunez98
RP231Clay Hensley64
RP327Edward Mujica33
RP425Ryan Webb#23
RP532Brian Sanches#55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Osvaldo Martinez, Bryan Petersen, John Baker (injured).

Pitchers - Randy Choate, Michael Dunn, Burke Badenhop.

Analysis: The Marlins are off to an odd start, 19-10 entering today's action even with their star, Hanley Ramirez, off to his second straight terrible start, .198/.308/.277, and a few other early problems - Infante's not hitting, Morrison's on the DL, and perhaps more predictably, Vazquez and Volstad have been horrible. Does this bode well for them? Maybe. Certainly Josh Johnson just keeps getting better - he's now 36-12 with a 2.78 ERA since his return in 2008, and in his last 224.2 IP his line is awe-inspiring: 2.04 ERA, 6.9 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9. And the development of Sanchez and the young outfield is encouraging - Stanton now has 27 HR and a .511 career slugging average in 126 career games, Sanchez has a career line of .281/.350/.458, Morrison .291/.397/.482 as a doubles-and-walks machine after posting OBPs of .402, .408 and .424 from age 20-22 in the minors. But recent history suggests that this team may have trouble keeping the rotation healthy (and perhaps the outfield as well). That and their perennially questionable defense will be the main question marks.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 176.83 (72 W)
Adjusted: 198.93 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 192.38 (77 W)
WS Age: 29.32
2011 W-L: 77-85

C24Josh Thole*510
1B24Ike Davis*821
2B26Daniel Murphy45
SS28Jose Reyes1516
3B28David Wright2324
RF34Carlos Beltran1412
CF29Angel Pagan1615
LF32Jason Bay1915
C228Mike Nickeas+04
INF26Justin Turner+04
OF31Scott Hairston97
1233Willie Harris76
1330Ronnie Paulino76
SP127Mike Pelfrey98
SP236RA Dickey98
SP324Jonathan Niese*37
SP432Chris Young32
SP532Chris Capuano21
RP129Francisco Rodriguez1210
RP226Bobby Parnell#23
RP329Taylor Buchholz22
RP434DJ Carrasco54
RP537Tim Byrdak43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Pridie, Lucas Duda, Chin-Lung Hu. Brad Emaus opened the season as the everyday 2B but, being a Rule V pick, left the organization when he was sent down.

Pitchers - Johan Santana, who is unlikely enough to return this season as to not be worth inclusion. Jason Isringhausen, Dillon Gee, Pedro Beato (one of the team's few effective relievers so far but currently disabled), Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi.

I've rated Parnell with the big club, although after early struggles he got shipped back to AAA. I'll be surprised if he's not back soon.

Analysis: I could, and probably should soon separately, write a lot more about these Mets, but I'll try to be brief here in the interests of getting this post done. In addition to time constraints, one of the sad realities of my blogging life is the number of subjects I can't really write about due to possible overlaps with my job, and now that has even invaded the core of my baseball blogging, as the Mets' financial mess is too tied up with the world of Madoff and my practice specialty - securities litigation - for me to address freely except in the most general terms.

I've been saying all year that I think this is a .500 team, which in the context of the prevailing mood among Mets fans makes me decidedly bullish. The starting rotation has been the biggest threat to that so far (we already knew the bullpen would be a mess).

The biggest variable, in terms of both upside and downside, is the outfield, which now includes as well Angel Pagan, who got off to a terrible start before getting hurt. Here's Carlos Beltran, 2001-2010: .283/.366/.509 2011, entering today's action: .294/.379/.520 - he's the same hitter (his 148 OPS+ would be the second-best of his career after his 2006 season), just not the same fielder and baserunner he was before the knee injury. With his contract up at season's end, Beltran could be traded to a contender later in the season if he is willing to go. (Jose Reyes might too, but I can't really analyze the wisdom of that without getting into the team's finances).
As for Bay, the Mets spent half as much on him as the Cardinals spent on Matt Holliday, and right now would kill for half of Holliday's production; his .258/.344/.399 line with 7 homers in 445 plate appearances suggests more than just an adjustment period, after leaving Boston after his age 30 season. The most encouraging sign has been the development of Ike Davis into something like the kind of slugger you need at first base. Unless you count Rico Brogna, the only home-grown power-hitting first baseman in club history is John Milner.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 154.17 (65 W)
Adjusted: 166.37 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 154.41 (65 W)
WS Age: 30.05
2011 W-L: 65-97

C23Wilson Ramos*24
1B31Adam LaRoche1614
2B24Danny Espinosa*25
SS25Ian Desmond*613
3B26Ryan Zimmerman2022
RF32Jayson Werth2318
CF31Rick Ankiel65
LF29Mike Morse55
C239Ivan Rodriguez86
INF35Jerry Hairston118
OF30Laynce Nix44
1243Matt Stairs42
1335Alex Cora43
SP136Livan Hernandez76
SP225Jordan Zimmerman#22
SP326John Lannan77
SP432Jason Marquis65
SP528Tom Gorzelanny44
RP123Drew Storen*36
RP226Tyler Clippard#68
RP328Sean Burnett65
RP431Doug Slaten21
RP530Todd Coffey33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jesus Flores (injured), Roger Bernadina, Brian Bixler.

Pitchers - Steven Strasburg (injured, as you know), Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick, Collin Balester, Henry Rodriguez, Yunieski Maya.

Analysis: If you can explain the Phillies' decisions as a desperate rage against the dying of the light and the Mets' as the external symptoms of the team's financial situation, the Nationals' behavior seems to manifest a sort of organization-wide post-traumatic stress disorder following Steven Strasburg's injury, as if the team just said "to hell with having a plan," let Adam Dunn walk, blew through some money on mid-career mid-market free agents (Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth), patched holes with slapdash additions like Rick Ankiel and Tom Gorzelanny, and then sat back and declared, "ah, that'll do" and went out to go on a bender. Another way of putting it is that the Nationals figured there was really no plan that could get them to a successful 2011, and decided to just throw a coat of paint over the team to avoid looking like they were giving up completely. But the real rebuilding will be on hold until 2012.

The Method

For those of you who are unfamiliar, EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2011 revisions to the age and rookie adjustments are discussed here.

Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give a probabalistic assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system - EWSL tells you what you should reasonably expect to happen this year if there are no surprises, rather than shedding light on how to spot the surprises before they happen; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here and here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. (I'm not convinced going to 24 or 25 would make the system more useful, since it would tend to overrate teams that stuff their back bench slots with aging ex-regulars). That said, I also don't adjust for available playing time, since as a general rule, teams that have excess depth of players with established track records are better off than those that are stretching to cover their whole roster with guys who have proven they can do the job. The line for each team's estimated 2011 W-L record adds EWSL plus 39.8 Win Shares, which is the average number of Win Shares by the rest of the team's roster (i.e., the players other than the 23 listed before the season) over the teams I have tracked the past five seasons (it went up this season, as explained here).

As always, the depth charts here are drawn from multiple sources (my starting point was the depth charts at Baseball, as well as USA Today's Baseball Weekly, and I've also worked from the actual playing time thus far in April, all modified by press reports and my own assessments) to list the guys who will end up doing the work. I take responsibility for any errors.

Prior NL East previews here: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
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